CDN stands by report on Rama’s calamity aid state
CEBU Daily News yesterday stood by its news report on Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s statement that he used his P20,000 calamity assistance in 2013 to pay for utility bills at home.
During the resumption of hearings by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), CDN day desk editor Doris Bongcac was asked about her article on this matter which appeared in the Dec. 28, 2013 issue. A similar one appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and its online edition.
Bongcac, who was subpoeneaed by the DILG to appear as a witness, recalled that she attended the mayor’s press conference and asked one question specifically about how he spent his P20,000 allocation of calamity aid given by the city government.
Rama replied that he used it to settle water and electric bills at his residence in barangay Basak, San Nicolas. He was quoted in the article saying “We have many activities in the Rama compound in the last days so the electric bill is high.”
Bongcac said she took notes of his reply in the press conference at City Hall on Dec. 27, 2013 and reported it. That account was never disputed since then but Bongcac was kept for almost two hours on the witness stand yesterday for cross examination.
City Legal Officer Jerone Castillo asked whether the mayor gave a sworn statement about his use of the P20,000.
Bongcac, who was a City Hall reporter in 2013, replied that “As a practice among journalists, we don’t ask them (officials) to swear by the statements that they make because as responsible elected officials, sir, I think they will not be saying something that would jeopardize them.”
Castillo pointed out that Bongcac didn’t see the actual power bill of the mayor.
She was asked by lawyer Rey Gealon, chief of the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO), who also represents Rama, if the P20,000 from City Hall was actually used to pay the mayor’s utility bills.
Bongcac said her question to the mayor about the calamity aid was clear and the only question she asked of him in the press conference.
Mayor Rama, Vice Mayor Edgar Labella and several city councilors are facing an administrative complaint for misconduct over the propriety of releasing P20,000 calamity aid to each city employees and official after typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol-Cebu earthquake. The P84 million outlay was approved by the City Council.
The complainant lawyer Reymelio Delute is identified with the mayor’s political opponent, former mayor Tomas Osmeña.
Today, City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas and City Administrator Lucelle Mercado are to appear as witnesses. Subpoenas were earlier issued to them. The hearing winds up tomorrow.
DILG hearing officer Isidro Barriios III, who flew in from Manila, earlier said they aim to finish the inquiry by last week of October or first week of November, then will submit findings and recommendations to the Office of the President. /Reporter Jose Santino S. Bunachita
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